The Bad Bride Diaries: How to Choose a Wedding Venue

We chose our wedding venue! We’re still waiting on signing contracts, but disaster aside, we have a venue. Choosing was actually a lot less tricky than I expected, and while typically, we’ve ended up choosing the MacDonald Burlington which was the first place we looked at, I thought it might be useful to share how we decided which venue was right for us.

Look at lots of places

We saw the Burlington first, and immediately knew we liked it a lot. We could have booked it then and there, but with nothing to compare it to, you don’t know if there’s something better out there. We ended up seeing four venues (and I spoke to around ten), and it really helped us feel confident that we’d seen the best first.

think practically

It’s easy to get carried away and pick somewhere that you like the idea of, or that fits your daydream of your princess day. Try to keep your practical head on though. Is it within your budget? What are you getting for your money? Is it a sensible size for the amount of guests you want? Is it easy to travel to and there are enough places to stay and park nearby? Does it meet any accessibility requirements your guests may have? Is the deposit and payment plan reasonable for you?

Choose a coordinator you can deal with for months

Chances are you’ll be dealing with one wedding coordinator from viewing to getting hitched, so it’s important that they’re someone you like and trust. I was amazed by how many venues took ages to respond to emails (including one who was incredibly rude when I chased for a response), which immediately discounted them for me. I need someone who can respond in a timely manner when I have questions.

Everyone we actually met was perfectly nice, but we experienced hiccups like one venue who hadn’t told the person showing us round that we were actually coming (red flag there!), people who wanted to steamroll us into having a themed wedding, and one who didn’t actually show us the whole venue. We’ve been dealing with Emma at the Burlington who has been a dream. She’s friendly, she’s fast to respond to questions, she’s accommodating around our schedule and we just liked her. She got us. Most of our viewings took around fifteen minutes but every time we went to see Emma, we were with her for about an hour.

think with your heart

If the venue ticks the practical boxes, think about the sentimental ones. Is it actually somewhere you can picture yourself getting married in? Do you feel happy while you’re there? Where will you have those all-important wedding photos taken?

The ideal venue is a mix between the daydream and somewhere actually sensible, with a team who are going to make your wedding day come together with minimal stress.

I’m so excited to have ours booked! Are you looking at venues now?

The Bad Bride Diaries: Things Nobody Tells You About Wedding Planning

Wedding planning is insane, turns out, and actually nobody tells you quite what it’s like. Here’s some of the surprises I’ve had in the planning stage.

  • When you starting drafting your guest list, you will be amazed by how many people you know, and begin to panic about how you’re going to afford to feed all these people.
  • To combat the above issue, you’ll consider causing some kind of family rift, or falling out with all your friends.
  • Small details are apparently incredibly important, and you’ll be asked to choose things like table runners and chair sashes, without really being sure what they actually are.
  • A naked chair is a no go, and your venue will be amazed if you suggest the chairs are fine without a cover, or one of these mysterious ‘sashes’.
  • Seating plans are the devil. You might think your family are all pretty normal and well behaved until you start having to work out where to sit people, and suddenly realise that dealing with divorced couples, friends with partners you don’t really know, and people you want to invite but who don’t really know any guests except you, is immensely complicated.
  • Everyone you’ve ever met will have some sort of opinion. Sometimes, these are uncalled for and mostly annoying (so far, we’ve had a ‘cheap’ venue suggested to us, which would have cost us our entire budget before we even put anything in it, been told I must have real flowers even though I don’t care about them, and I’ve lost count of all the people I’ve been told I should have as a bridesmaid). Just when you’re ready to stop talking to everyone until you’re married, someone will offer some incredibly useful advice (what to ask when you visit a venue, surprisingly cheap ways to ferry guests between ceremony and reception) and you’ll be so grateful, you’ll consider marrying that person instead.
  • You will spend a lot of your time exclaiming, “HOW MUCH?” Slap the word wedding in front of anything and the price rockets.
  • Despite never showing any inclination towards crafts before, you suddenly begin to consider all sorts of wedding DIYs, from invites to centre pieces. If you’re not genuinely skilled at this sort of thing, beware, and do NOT be fooled by Pinterest. If it looks fiddly to make, it probably is.
  • Gift lists are a minefield. Despite the fact you and your betrothed have been living together and are all stocked up with toasters and towel bundles, apparently you must still register for a gift list and include homewares. You might think your nearest and dearest might like to contribute to a bloody good holiday after all the wedding planning stress, or towards a housing deposit, but there will definitely be people who tell you a ‘honeymoon fund’ is incredibly tacky, even though it is perfectly polite to ask for overpriced pans from John Lewis. This makes no sense, and you will eventually decide to do what the hell you like and ignore anyone who complains.
  • There will be a point (probably several) where you consider jacking the whole thing in and just eloping. Gretna Green, or perhaps Vegas with an Elvis impersonator will seem like extremely attractive options.
  • For some reason, most things written about weddings assume the groom is a bit of an incompetent bumbler, who is largely disinterested in his own wedding. You will be advised to check up on anything he is in charge of, including attending his own suit appointments.
  • No matter how disinterested in weddings you were before, you will be utterly obsessed by yours. Your friends, family and possibly even your partner will be sick to death of you talking about centre pieces by the wedding. Sorry.

Scott’s of Harborne

A few weeks ago a message landed in my Instagram inbox from my friend Scott, asking, “So when are you coming to review my new place?”. Seeing as ‘my friend Scott’ is Scott of Scott’s of Harborne, the new cafe-bar causing some serious buzz, I rounded up the blog squad and we headed over to test out some tapas.

Scott's of Harborne

the cafe-bar

We’ve all seen Scott’s plant-filled cafe all over Instagram. It’s a small space, but it’s bright and light, with pale wood, white tiles, and piles of greenery. There’s one long communal table to encourage sharing and sociability, and there are smaller tables either side for couples or solo diners. There’s plenty of plug sockets too, so you can settle in with your laptop.

The bar at the back is piled high with cake, and you can sit back and watch your drink being made.

Strawberry Gin Mojito

the drinks

I ordered a Strawberry Gin Mojito, which arrived looking gorgeous in a gin balloon glass, packed with fruit and topped with pretty paper straws. It was sweet and fruity, without totally overpowering the gin, and was a prefect refreshing treat for the warm weather.

As well as a gin menu, Scott’s also has a decent wine selection, and serves coffee made with beans from Quarter Horse.

Scott's Tapas

THE FOOD

As usual, we ordered a huge amount of food, and demolished the lot. Scott’s menu is divided into brunch (available all day), sandwiches, a soup of the day, and a tapas menu. We went for the tapas as Scott’s is all about sharing. The tapas menu is split into sections by price, and is incredibly reasonable.

Fried Squid

Marinated Olives (£3.95) were salty, juicy and well paired with pickles, which I always love. The Fried Squid (£5.95) comes with Aioli, and was a stand-out dish. The squid was clearly very fresh, with not a hint of rubber. It was lightly fried, and delicious.

Courgette Fritters (£4.95) were an unexpected highlight. Scott recommended them as his own personal favourite item on the menu and I can see why. Slices of courgette are fried and somehow transform into magical bites of deliciousness that you’ll want to eat by the handful.

Gambas

The Sundried Tomato and Goat’s Cheese Tart (£4.95) was flaky, melty cheese perfection. I always think of Patatas Bravas (£4.95) as the test of good tapas. I’ve had many a disappointing dish with over and under cooked potatoes with bland tomatoes dumped over the top. Not so at Scott’s! The generous portion of potatoes were crispy, fluffy inside and smothered in a rich tomato sauce with a gentle kick of spice.

A dish of Grilled Aubergine, Courgette and Peppers in Chilli, Lemon and Mint Vinaigrette (£4.95) was also a massive portion, with tasty, fresh veg. The Cured Meats Board (£5.95) was also a crowd pleasure, with a good selection of meats, joined by more of those tasty olives.

Goat's Cheese Tart

The Lamb Koftas (£5.95) are studded with pine nuts and were full of flavour. We loved the accompanying creamy hummus, and warm flat breads too. The only misstep for us was were the Chicken Wings (£5.95). They were nice enough, marinaded in Honey & Ginger and Chilli, Mint & Lime, but just didn’t stand up to the high quality of everything else.

The Gambas (£5.95) are huge prawns, cooked in a delicious garlic and paprika sauce. I’d have liked a few more prawns just for ease of sharing, but the portion is more than reasonable for the price. The prawns were gorgeous, with plenty of garlic, and soft Peel and Stone bread on the side to soak up the sauce.

Scott’s also make fresh cakes on site, with an ever rotating selection of treats. Scott brings us a slice of Victoria Sponge and Carrot Cake which are both beautiful. The Carrot Cake is truly exceptional, and may be one of the best I’ve ever had.

Cured Meats

the service

When you know the owner, it’s hard to be subjective about the service! What I can say is that Scott loves this place; he’s designed the sort of place he wants to hang out in, with a menu themed on food he likes. He was very keen to get out feedback and was full of ideas for further menu and recipe tweaks to come.

Watching his staff with other customers, it’s clear that a warm welcome is the norm at Scott’s, with friendly service and nothing too much trouble.

Birmingham Tapas

the verdict

I’m moving in. The food was exceptional, and it’s insanely good value. Next time I’ll be back in for coffee and another slice of that insane cake. GO now and eat half the menu. If you have an Independent Birmingham Card you can get 15% off food and hot drinks.

I was a guest of Scott’s of Harborne, so food and drinks were complementary for the purpose of honest review. All words, images and opinions are my own.